Author Topic: The dangers of de-clicking and de-noising >> A HOW-TO (and HOW-NOT-TO) is needed  (Read 569 times)

likedeeler

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So, you finally got hold of that sought-after record and ripped it, but there is some crackle and perhaps a bit of noise. What to do?

The answer is: preferrably nothing.

Algorithms for alleged sound improvement are a pet annoyance of mine. Allow me a little rant.

De-noising and de-clicking are very dangerous to the music. Actually "cleaning up" a vinyl rip in such a way that it does no harm to the music is extremely laborious and requires (1) a very good sound reproduction system, (2) a professional software, (3) knowledge and experience, (4) a good ear, and (5) a lot of time, meaning: ten to a hundred times the running time, and possibly more than that.

To produce a good rip in the first place you need, of course, an excellent record player. Today, mid-range record players that have an acceptable sound do not exist anymore on the market. What you can buy new is either abysmally bad ("USB players", for example) or high end and expensive.

And you need a good exemplar of the record. Trying to get a record that has been graded "very good" (meaning: rather bad) on the marketplace to sound flawless as a digital rip must be discouraged.

It is simply impossible to get good results by setting a slider in the menu of some de-clicking program and pressing "start". But that is what many people do. Also here in this forum. All too often the result is lifeless, sterile audio. That is deplorable.

There is a competitive aspect in play that contributes to the general ignorance regarding sound. Collecting library records (and the rips of them) tends to become a lot like stamp collecting. It sometimes appears to be more important to people to be able to present a "nice" rip from a battered record that they found for cheap, and which fills that annoying gap between catalogue numbers X and Y, than they care about the actual music contained in the record. Or in the rip.

I have searched for "declicking" here and have found only this thread: https://librarymusicthemes.net/index.php?topic=7106.0. The discussion is interesting, and there is a very good example for the deterioration in sound that I mean: https://librarymusicthemes.net/index.php?topic=7106.msg50778#msg50778.

Such deteriorations can be subtle and not easy to perceive -- which is why one needs a very good reproduction system, excellent ears and experience to perform any sound manipulation.

My proposal is to have a discussion about de-clicking and de-noising, how and to what degree to do it -- if one must at all --, bad programs and better programs, parameter adjustments, what to listen for, and so on. Eventually the result should be a guide for rippers. It would be highly desirable to have actual sound engineers who work in a recording or mastering studio contribute.

The guide should be pinned instead of being buried in the discussion on an advertisement of a software program.

What do you think?
« Last Edit: October 28, 2021, 02:28:32 PM by likedeeler »

digdeeper

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I agree, one has to be very careful, and an unedited version is preferrable in the sense that you can always declick something yourself, but can never "un-declick" something. I know precious little about declicking, but I know a little about image editing and restoration, where efforts to "clean something up" (such as a scan) can lead to loss of other information, too. I declicked some tracks a couple of times with Audacity, but I selected only the single clicks, I did never run some algorithm over the entire track, which apparently caused the trombone overtone loss mentioned in the example. An algorithm calibrated to filter out as much unwanted patterns as possible will inevitably have "by-catch". Same problem with social networks and automatic censorship of comments and videos deemed "potentially unsafe" etc.

kimhill

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I'll paste in something I wrote earlier in the other thread:

…with respect to cleaning up tracks with this kind of software (iZotope in my case) -- I tried my first clean-up, and it worked perfectly for my purpose. There were a couple nasty clicks in the fade-out of a track, and I selected A SHORT PIECE of the fade -- just where the clicks were. iZotope removed the clicks perfectly, and of course, that small segment (less than 1 sec.) was the only part of the track that was changed. The distracting clicks in the fade-out were gone, and it sounded perfect.

Anyway, I know there's concern about putting entire tracks through the de-click software grinder, in hopes of improving something, which I agree is a mistake. But used carefully, iZotope fixed my track easily, and in a crucial way, improving the listening experience.

The_Eleventh_Hour

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I never de click with the de-click option in any program. I tend to go through the track and where there is a click or pop or anomaly of any kind, i zoom into that specific part of the spectral track (i use adobe audition) then i remove the click 'space' Crackles and sleeve static i tend to keep as it is always nice to hear and is a constant reminder of where it came from. Once done i tend to master it (and in my first attempts) had the misfortune of (by accident) forcing a mono to stereo without even realising it.

Andrew

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I did a lot of testing before trying any automatic de-clicking.  It's way too easy to ruin sharp attacks on things like brass and drums.

I tried a bunch of different methods and looked at what they actually removed from the sound to see what was incorrectly being discarded.

I eventually settled on this add-on as my favorite as I found it the most accurate:
https://www.jdklein.com/clickfix/index.htm

I use very light de-clicking and then manually clean up large clicks afterwards.

If a song has anything that is supposed to sound like clicks, for instance castanets, then I don't do any automatic de-clicking because they will get erased.

soniclab

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I agree with "do nothing". I'm not a sound engineer, but I think that the algorithms that many software programs use to remove or reduce noise lose a lot of the original sound. If you turn up the volume on an analogue disc with no sound, you will hear what sounds a lot like brown noise in addition to the tinny noise. Removing this digitally would mean removing sound source throughout the audible range. I think it's more important to get a vinyl in good condition from a good store, and to physically remove the dust. I use ultrasonic cleaning and a DIY packing glue made with PVA-L and ethanol to remove as much debris as possible.
" Life has surface noise."

Prolet

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I think anybody would say that it is always better to get something right from the beginning instead of correcting faults afterwards. But if there is no choice and damage has been done - nowadays there are some high-tech tools available such as iZotope RX9 Advanced.

https://www.izotope.com/en/shop/rx-9-advanced.html

I was just amazed by the price of the "Advanced" version. I have never used it but it is well known, arguably the industry standard for audio repair tasks. Sure, some people here could tell more about it.